Elvis’s House or Graceland is as popular in Tennessee as the White House is in Washington, DC. Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate is the main attraction in Tennessee. Tours to this cozy home provide a unique glimpse into the King’s life; nothing has changed here since his funeral in 1977. Undoubtedly the most famous rock ‘n’ roll residence in the world, Graceland remains a pilgrimage destination for King’s fans from around the world. Highlights of the Graceland tour include: a visit to the family tomb, the King’s impressive car collection, two airplanes belonging to Elvis Presley, costumes, souvenirs and gifts given to Elvis during his performances, the music hall, the TV room and much more.
Andrew Jackson House (The Hermitage)
Just a few miles east of Nashville is – The Hermitage, the former home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, where he lived after retiring from 1837 to 1845. Built in 1819 and rebuilt in 1834, it is a typical example of Tennessee architecture. This magnificent mansion has housed the Andrew Jackson Museum since 1889. During a tour of the mansion, you can see absolutely authentic 18th century furnishings, furniture, household items, documents and personal belongings of Andrew Jackson. After touring the Hermitage, you can walk through the beautiful park and visit the graves of Jackson and his wife, Rachel, in Tulip Grove.
This simple private home, 20 miles outside Nashville, became synonymous with the Civil War when one of the major battles of the United States Civil War, the so-called Second Battle of Franklin or the Battle of Franklin, played out around its walls on November 30, 1864. Even today, the Carter House bears the scars of a thousand bullets. The house itself is notable for its original and antique furnishings and is now home to a Civil War relics museum.
The Carter House was purchased by the State of Tennessee in 1951 and first opened its doors to the public in 1953. The museum is dedicated to the Battle of Franklin, the Carter family and all Americans who fought in the Civil War.
Great Smoky Mountains
No tour of Tennessee’s natural attractions is complete without a visit to the beautiful mountain range, the Great Smoky Mountains, whose slopes are home to a nature park created back in 1934, and with more than 9 million visits a year, it is the most visited national park in the United States. It has one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, and the spruce-fir forest that covers it is the largest of its kind.
The best place to start a tour of the park’s natural beauty is the small town of Gatlinburg, which, unlike most faceless small American towns, has some pretty interesting alpine architecture.
The City of Gallatin
Forty minutes northeast of Nashville is the small town of Gallatin, founded in 1802 and named for Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The town boasts a quaint central square and many pleasant, shady streets. The town’s landmark is the oldest mansion in Tennessee, a tour of which is available by appointment only. This beautiful two-story brick house, built in 1813, is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Inside the mansion, you’ll find exquisite antique furniture and a library that boasts a collection of Confederate-era books and documents. On the same grounds is the Sumner County Museum, with its collection of more than 250,000 artifacts, including fossils, American Indian items and antique toys.
The town of Murfreesboro is 50 minutes southwest of Nashville and was the state capital of Tennessee from 1818 to 1826, but soon lost the right to remain the state capital in a one-vote council vote. Highlights of the tour of this historic town are the Rutherford County courthouse, known as the site of the Confederate attack on Union soldiers, now home to the historic House Museum, restored in the Italian style, built in 1815. A pioneer village with reconstructed houses, blacksmith shop, stores, saloons and a school. The old Murfreesboro Town Hall and a superb city park.
No tour of Nashville would be complete without a visit to one of Tennessee’s most remarkable landmarks, namely the enormous Parthenon. The Parthenon is built in Central Park, just a short walk from downtown, and is exactly like the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It was erected to commemorate the centennial of the state in 1897. Made entirely of concrete, the Parthenon is impressive in its enormous size, both inside and out.
American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge
The American Museum of Science and Energy at Oak Ridge offers a fascinating tour of nuclear energy history. Highlights include an account of Oak Ridge’s role in the development of the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project, including videos, photographs, artifacts and documents that help paint a picture of this once vast facility. Other exhibits focus on national defense and include models of weapons, tools and protective clothing used at nuclear facilities.
Another Tennessee attraction is the city of Knoxville, about a 3-hour drive from the state capital, Shashville. Knoxville is primarily known for the University of Tennessee. Founded in 1794, the university is famous for its campus and magnificent gardens, which are open for tours from sunrise to sunset. Because of its location, it’s easy to explore the rest of Knoxville after the university. Worth highlighting are the observation tower with superb views of the area, the Confederate Memorial Hall used in 1863 as the Confederate headquarters during the siege of the city, the East Tennessee Historical Society Museum and the wonderful Market Square.